The short answer is yes. What this means in practice is a bit more complex. You see, eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day doesn’t really give a full picture of a healthy diet and lifestyle. You could be getting healthy nutrients from those fruits and vegetables but alongside them you may also be eating a food that triggers your body and causes inflammation in the gut so it can’t process the nutrients properly.
In reality, there are no quick fixes or short-term solutions that you can dip in and out of. To live a healthy life, prevent sickness as much as possible and manage symptoms of health conditions, you need a long-term plan for how to eat healthily and embrace a healthy lifestyle according to your needs. That’s right, this won’t be the same for everyone.
Why does what you eat matter?
The human body is an incredibly complex system. For everything to be working properly it needs the right micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants etc.). Different micronutrients are used in the body for different things. If we don’t get enough of even just one vitamin, the body will be unable to function properly. In essence, we need a very varied and complex set of fuels to ensure the many processes that are part of our complex system run smoothly.
Where do these important nutrients come from? The food we eat.
The importance of fruit and vegetables is emphasised by the health industry because they are naturally packed with nutrition. Processed food, on the other hand, may often contain little of meaningful nutritional value at all, and may contain harmful sugars and trans-fats which drive inflammation. So while we can eat all kinds of food and feel full, it doesn’t mean our body is nourished and getting what it needs to function healthily. We need to be nourishing our bodies correctly every day. Not just during 30 day or 90 day diets.
Should we all have the same diet?
We all have human bodies so that means we all need the exact same nutrition, right? Wrong. One person’s food can be another person’s poison. Different people’s systems respond differently to food proteins and chemicals. For example, Lactose intolerance (caused by a deficiency of the lactase enzyme in the gut), means that while some people can happily eat dairy, others develop GI symptoms due to an inability to break down and absorb the natural milk sugars.
However, not all sensitivities are that obvious. There may be food that you are eating that is causing inflammation in your gut without you realising it because the effects are more subtle but still significant. Inflammation in the gut prevents proper absorption of nutrients and may be a key trigger for autoimmune conditions. Therefore, identification of the right diet for you is key to a happy and healthy immune system.
Eating a nutrient-dense diet, and ensuring it is properly processed by eliminating trigger (i.e. inflammatory) foods can be transformative. It not only ensures your body is able to function healthily, but also helps to prevent the risk of future health issues linked to chronic inflammation such as cognitive decline, heart disease and cancer risks.
In any chronic illness, optimising diet and nutrition are the keystone to effective management and inflammation reduction.
How do I figure out a long-term healthy eating plan?
As everyone is different a specific long-term healthy eating plan can’t be recommended for general use. Your medical history and health status need to be assessed to understand your body’s needs and create an appropriate plan for you.
With my patients, we go through a process of elimination and reintroduction after this initial assessment to find out exactly what their trigger foods are. There are certain foods that are known to potentially be inflammatory. After eliminating these from your diet and clearing your system, we can reintroduce them one by one and monitor the effect it has on your body in particular. Based on the understanding of what nutrients your body needs and what food it is sensitive to, a sustainable healthy eating plan can then be created.
Ready to get started? Join The Functional Foundation Programme to be guided through this process and figure out your perfect healthy diet. As a Functional Medicine doctor, I can give you the information you need to understand your body and what you can do to nourish it. With extra support from a health coach, you’ll be able to apply these healthy living principles and adapt to your new diet so you can enjoy the benefits of a healthy functioning body. Sign up here.